“And now Herod, in the eighteenth year of his reign, and after the acts already mentioned, undertook a very great work; that is to build of himself the temple of God.” – Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus, XV Chapter 11

King Herod, the vassal king appointed by the Romans in 40 B.C.E. to rule Judea on their behalf, famously had a mania for colossal construction projects. Most famously, he redid the temple in Jerusalem, creating the reportedly magnificent second Second Temple after apparently deciding that the first Second Temple wasn’t grand enough. He is credited with building the palatial fortress at Masada, the port of Caesarea Maritima, palaces for himself (and his bonsai collection?), and in fact entire cities during his reign in the second half of the first century B.C.E.

Herod’s edifices were accoutered magnificently, using the finest materials, such as marble shipped over from Italy. Having been a seabed many millions of years ago, Israel now has abundant chalkstones of various types such as cheapo gypsum, but not marble, certainly not of the quality the king wanted for his ports, palaces and the great temple itself.

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